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SLOVAKIA: Presidential Election

The second round of Slovakia´s presidential elections, with a 41.79% turnout, was held on 30 March 2019. It was won by a political newcomer Zuzana Čaputová with 58.41%, who defeated a high-profile diplomat and current Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič who scored 41.59%. Čaputová is the first woman to be elected president in both Slovakia and the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia).

Although Šefčovič managed to narrow the difference between him and Čaputová’s result after the first round, when the difference between the two candidates was more than 20 percentage points, a vote for him was seen as a vote for the strongest ruling social-democratic party SMER-SD, which has experienced a massive decline in support over the last year.

Čaputová is a 45-year-old, pro-European, liberal, anti-corruption activist and lawyer with no political experience, who was nominated by her own non-parliamentary party Progressive Slovakia. With the slogan of “stand up to evil”, she gained prominence marching alongside thousands of people in anti-government protests after investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were gunned down in February 2018. Before the first round, she managed to get the support of almost all democratic opposition parties as well as the endorsement of the outgoing president Andrej Kiska who is expected to announce the creation of his own political party in the coming weeks.

The Slovakian presidency is less powerful than the prime minister’s office, but the president is responsible for ratifying international treaties and appointing top judges, is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and can veto laws passed by parliament.

Čaputová has already resigned from the position of Vice-Chairwoman of Progressive Slovakia and is expected to leave the party too in order to become an independent and non-partisan president. Despite her success as a liberal candidate, one cannot draw early conclusions about the possible outcome of the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in February or March 2020. In the Slovak presidential elections, people have often voted for personality rather than a political party. The president-elect is due to be sworn in and assume the office on 15 June 2019.